Federal Judge Blocks NH Medicaid Work Requirement

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Paula Tracy photo

Gov. Chris Sununu is pictured with HHS Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers at news conference July 8 at the State House regarding delay of work requirement.

 – On Monday, a federal judge overturned the Trump administration’s plan to impose work requirements on Granite Staters trying to obtain health insurance through Medicaid.

Democrats praised the ruling and Republicans, including Gov. Chris Sununu, criticized it.

 House Majority Leader, Doug Ley, D-Jaffrey, said the ruling showed the court agreed the “Medicaid work requirement would cause undue harm to the most vulnerable people in New Hampshire causing them to lose their health insurance.”

Ley said it was unfortunate to see Republican colleagues in the House “remain steadfast in their support of the burdensome and unreasonable work requirement even while seeing 18,000 people wrongfully lose their health insurance in Arkansas.”

Sununu said he was disappointed by the ruling.

“New Hampshire clearly demonstrated that the state was implementing its work requirement responsibly and in a manner that would ensure that no individual would inappropriately lose coverage.

“A ruling from one federal trial court judge in Washington, D.C. is only the first step in the process, and we are confident that New Hampshire’s work requirement will ultimately be upheld,” Sununu said.

Sununu didn’t respond to an email asking what steps he might take next.

Earlier this month, Sununu signed a bill delaying implementation of the work requirement because a large number of the participants couldn’t be reached to tell them about it.

“The issues presented in this case are all too familiar,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg.

“In the past year or so, this Court has resolved challenges to similar programs in Kentucky and Arkansas, each time finding the Secretary’s approval deficient.”

The ruling said the shortcoming in the agency’s decisions in those cases was its failure to adequately consider the requirements’ effects on Medicaid coverage. HHS did not “offer its own estimates of coverage loss or grapple with comments in the administrative record projecting that the proposal would lead a substantial number of residents to be disenrolled from Medicaid.”

“Plaintiffs argue that the Secretary’s approval of New Hampshire’s plan suffers from the same deficiency and thus must meet the same fate,” Boasberg wrote.

House Republican Leader Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack, said in a news release:

“Not too long ago, New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion work requirement was the proud accomplishment of a bipartisan agreement with plenty of reasonable exemptions.”

Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua, said: “We know the overwhelming majority of Medicaid enrollees are working, are students, or are taking care of a family member.

“Yet 60% of the individuals the NH Department of Health and Human Services believes would have been subject to this work requirement were facing suspension through no fault of their own because the Department had not adequately contacted, educated, or counseled people about the requirement.”

Rosenwald said before the ruling “Sununu directed New Hampshire to spend thousands of dollars a day to take state employees away from their important daily work to randomly knock on doors in a last-ditch effort to implement this flawed work requirement.”

“Given today’s ruling, I hope the Sununu and Trump administrations drop their attacks on Medicaid and get back to supporting access to health care for hardworking people, which has been the best tool New Hampshire has to combat the opioid epidemic,” Rosenwald said.

Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said there was nothing punitive about the work requirement.

“(B)ut it ensured that able bodied adults were either working or participating in community engagement. It was a critical element for the reauthorization of Medicaid Expansion to pass and Granite Staters would have been better off with it in place,” Bradley said.

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